March 8, 2020    
All Day

International Women’s Day 2020

IWMI staff describe ‘aha moments’ when they realized the importance of gender equality for improving food, water, land and agricultural systems.

Claudia Sadoff - Director General

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Mark Smith - Deputy Director General

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Izabella Koziell

Program Director - CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE)

“Working in Tanzania’s dry zone, where many rural women and girls walked several kilometers to collect water every day, opened my eyes to some of the harsh realities of development. In this case, what seemed like an obvious solution for women – to dig wells to bring water closer to homesteads – failed spectacularly. There was one cardinal mistake: No one asked the women how they used water – only men were consulted. So, dozens of wells were dug, but they provided only hard water, which was unusable for cooking or washing. Unsurprisingly, all wells were soon defunct, and the women still walked hours every day to collect water. When the next project started, none of the women wanted to participate!

Well-meaning research or development efforts could be wasted, if the needs of women and those most vulnerable or affected are ignored.”

Soumya Balasubramanya

Research Group Leader - Economics

“When I started working in Tajikistan, I thought that the de-collectivization of Soviet-era cotton farms into smaller private farms may have ‘feminized’ cotton cultivation. However, it became apparent that cotton production on collective farms also used female labor extensively. I guess it helps to check your assumptions.”

Alan Nicol

Strategic Program Director - Water, Growth and Inclusion

“Sometime back, I realized that gender inequality is not just a moral challenge, but also a fundamental economic failure with massive and daily ramifications for global development. Sitting in rural Karamoja, Uganda, in 2018, I calculated the wages that women could earn through gainful employment instead of spending most of their time to collect water. If every other woman collecting water on a daily basis in the subregion (say 100,000 people a day from a population of 1 million people) received half a day’s wages through employment at a going rate of about USD 1, the value generated after a year would be equivalent to nearly half the annual aid received by the entire Karamoja subregion. This is a mind-boggling figure and serves to underline that gender inequality is anti-development, period!”

Diana Suhardiman

Research Group Leader – Governance and Gender

“In the village of Bitter Bamboo in Laos, gender equality is embedded in farm households’ seasonal decisions to select arable land, and in the choice of crops and seeds for cultivation. In this way, food security and sustainable environmental management are ensured through mutual respect and equal partnership.”

Luna Bharati

Principal Researcher-Hydrology and Water Resources

“I have been working in the water sector for almost two decades. I find it quite disheartening that the policy-making/management level is still dominated by men/and or masculinity, which is then also reflected in national policies and services. We are still on the road to gender equality and have a long way to go. I recently read an article in The Guardian by Rebecca Solnit and had an ‘aha’ moment, as my hope also lies with the younger generation of water professionals. I quote here an excerpt from the article, ‘Me, I admire and am grateful to the younger feminists at work, and learn a lot from them – not any one big truth but a host of insights that have gradually shifted my understanding, and given me new tools to use. What I find in so many young women and girls – right down to toddlers in my family, as well as that young woman taking her friend to get the rape kit – is a clarity and confidence about their rights, needs, and truths that feels new and different. We can credit an older generation with sowing some of the seeds, but they are the beautiful harvest. They are the victory’.”

Rachael Mcdonnell

Strategic Program Director – Water, Climate Change & Resilience

“As an undergraduate scientist, back in 1987, I had just spent the day collecting field samples from a salt lake in Tunisia and was waiting for a lift back to the hotel, when I noticed a procession of women with crop-laden donkeys walking into the village after working in the oases (the men were already sitting and drinking coffee with their friends). So, it became evident that women were mainly involved in food production and income generation in this rural setting.”

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Related Publications

Displaying 5 publications (Show all records)
Theis, S.; Lefore, Nicole; Meinzen-Dick, R.; Bryan, E. 2018. What happens after technology adoption?: gendered aspects of small-scale irrigation technologies in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania. Agriculture and Human Values, 35(3):671-684. [DOI]
More... | Fulltext (1.01 MB)

IWMI Annual report 2017 (6/8/2018)
International Water Management Institute (IWMI). 2018. IWMI Annual report 2017. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI) 36p. [DOI]
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Ferrer, A. J.; Yen, B. T.; Kura, Y.; Minh, N. D.; Pavelic, Paul; Amjath-Babu, T. S.; Sebastian, L. 2018. Analyzing farm household strategies for food security and climate resilience: the case of climate-smart villages of Southeast Asia. Wageningen, Netherlands: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) 31p. (CCAFS Working Paper 248)
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Strengthening participatory irrigation management in Tajikistan (6/20/2018)
International Water Management Institute (IWMI). 2018. Strengthening participatory irrigation management in Tajikistan. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI) 8p. (IWMI Water Policy Brief 41) [DOI]
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Theis, S.; Bekele, R. D.; Lefore, Nicole; Meinzen-Dick, R.; Ringler, C. 2018. Considering gender when promoting small-scale irrigation technologies: guidance for inclusive irrigation interventions. Washington, DC, USA: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 8p. (IFPRI-REACH Project Note)
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